How to Increase Your Board Fundraising

by Joe Garecht

In most organizations, board fundraising refers to two related components.  First, the board is asked (or required) to give a personal gift each year to the organization.  Second, the board is asked (or required) to help solicit funds for the organization from their own network of family, friends, and colleagues.

Both forms of board fundraising are vital to the success of every single school, church, or charity.  Why?  Because the best place to start your fundraising network is with those supporters who are closest to you organization, and who is closer to your organization than its board of directors?  If they won’t give personal gifts and ask for support from their own rolodexes, can you really expect others who are further removed from your organization to do the same?

Of course, board fundraising is a tricky subject for your non-profit’s development staff and staff leadership – your development professionals know how important the board’s involvement is to your fundraising success, yet often, the board (or at least some portion of the board’s membership) is reluctant to give or raise funds.  When this happens (and it often does) , your organization’s development staff is left in the unenviable position of pressuring their ultimate boss (the board) into giving.  This pressure takes any number of forms, including cajoling, inspiring, wheedling, and all to often… begging.

Because board fundraising is such an important component of your organization’s overall fundraising plan, here are four tips for rousing any board into an increased fundraising role for your school, church, or charity:

1.   Explain the Need

Believe it or not, many board members of many organizations aren’t entirely clear on the “dollars and cents” of their non-profit.  They don’t understand where the money goes or why your group needs more of it.  Sure, most boards have a few “numbers people” who ask lots of questions and double check figures on the budget, but don’t make the mistake of thinking all of your board members are similarly inclined.  (Part of this explanation process should be the presentation of a well-written fundraising plan).

Boards that understand the balance sheet and the overall fundraising goals are much more likely to be actively engaged in fundraising efforts.  Take some time to explain your budget to your board, and to lay out why you need each and every dollar you are attempting to raise.  Show them the need, and what they can do to help fill it.

2.   Inspire with Your Mission

Your board may innately support your organization, but even they sometimes lose steam.  Take the time to frequently reconnect your board with your mission.  Inspire them with your successes.  Share with them your vision for the future.  Highlight your clients’ stories.  Take them on tours.  Connect with them frequently.  Board members that are inspired and emotionally driven by your mission are board members that not only will raise money for you, but will want to.

3.   Educate and Support

Depending on the composition of your board, you may have several (or even a majority of) board members who wish they could raise lots of money for you, but don’t really know how.  Take some time to “train” your board on how to fundraise.  Teach them how to make an ask.  Walk them through the process of holding an event in their home for your organization.  Show them how to introduce people to your charity.  Give them a chance to practice, to learn, and to ask questions.

One great way to do this is by holding a board retreat with a major fundraising component.  Another way is to set aside time at a board meeting for a training session.  Teach your board what you want them to do so they can go out and do it for you.

4.   Be Mindful of Your Board’s Talents

Various board members will have varying talents.  Some will be great fundraisers.  Others will be great visionaries.  Still others will help with PR, advertising, program components, and planning and organization.  While all board members should have some responsibility for fundraising (and all should personally give to your organization), recognize that some people will have a real knack for board fundraising, while others will only do so out of a sense of obligation.

Understanding this fact, be mindful of always having a certain percentage of good fundraisers on your board of directors.  As members cycle on and off of your board, make sure that board fundraising is an important criteria of the selection process for new board members.  Set yourself up for future fundraising success.

Also, be sure to check out our webinar How to Get Your Board Enthusiastic about Fundraising.

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